Saturday, November 19, 2005

''Spreading through the press like a toxic plume''

"If you wanted a quick course in what's currently wrong with 'mainstream' US journalism, you'd have a hard time beating this article by Tim Rutten. He convincingly shows the connections between Plamegate, the Dubya administration's manipulation of the news media, and the death throes of the investigative journalism tradition that started with Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate reporting in the 1970s. It's a must-read:

Two things have distinguished this Bush administration's efforts at press manipulation from those that have gone before.

One is their sweep and consistency. There has been bribery — as in the egregious case of the wretched Williams. There has been deception — as in the planting of phony news videos. There have been alleged violations of federal laws and regulations — as in Tomlinson's and Rove's efforts to subvert public television. There has been stealth — as in the whispering campaign to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

And, of course, there has been good old-fashioned bullying, as in the president's and vice-president's assertions that raising questions about their push to war or the torture of U.S. captives is somehow "reprehensible" and unpatriotic. It's a melancholy comment on the state of the American press that it takes a former director of Central Intelligence, Adm. Stansfield Turner, to identify Dick Cheney for what he has become — "vice president for torture" — and that he had to do it in a foreign forum, on Britain's ITV news, as he did Thursday.

The other reason all this has more or less succeeded and gone all but unremarked upon is that the administration has adroitly availed itself of the cultural complicity that prevails in a fin de si├Ęcle Washington press corps living out the decadence of an increasingly discredited reporting style. As the Valerie Plame scandal and its spreading taint have made all too clear, the trade in confidentiality and access that has made stars of reporters like Bob Woodward and Judy Miller now is utterly bankrupt.

It still may call itself investigative journalism — and so it once was — but now it's really just a glittering and carefully choreographed waltz in which all the dancers share the unspoken agreement that the one unpardonable faux pas is to ask who's calling the tune. Via LA Times." -from Pacific Views.

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